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Saturday, May 23, 1998 Published at 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK


Search for long-term successor begins




BBC News' Matt Frei on the lack of an obvious long term successor
President Suharto's decision to step down has left Indonesia with no obvious long term successor. BBC News online offers this guide to the key players in Indonesia's immediate future.

The political establishment


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When President Suharto decided to step down, his Vice President BJ Habibie automatically took over, under the terms of the constitution. But most analysts see Habibie as just a stop gap leader.

Mr Habibie was appointed Vice President in March, with the backing of Indonesia's powerful armed forces and the dominant Golkar party.

He has been a protégé of President Suharto since he was a teenager and has the president's trust.

The opposition

Despite the protests of the past few months, the opposition remains a loose coalition of different factions. Even so, one man has emerged as the most powerful opposition figure:


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Amien Rais, leader of a Muslim organisation claiming 28 million members, became the focus of opposition challenges to President Suharto, and is currently the nearest thing Indonesia has to a leader of opposition.

He openly criticised the president and offered himself as an alternative.

"People are much stronger than any political group in this country, including the armed forces," he has said.

Megawati Sukharnoputri, the 50-year-old daughter of the first president of Indonesia, President Sukharno, has also been a focus for opposition over the past year.


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But in recent months she has maintained a low-key and legalistic approach.

Her low profile in the last few weeks has damaged her populist image. She was often said to be "shopping" and failed to appear before students outside the parliament buildings.

Megawati was ousted from the leadership of the minority Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) by a government-backed faction in mid-1996 but retains a considerable following.

She made a public appeal earlier this year for President Suharto to step down to save the country from economic crisis.

"Striped prison uniforms should be sown for the economic criminals who have destroyed our nation and our economic future," she said.

The army

Throughout the crisis, the army remained loyal to President Suharto, in public at least. There were a number of reports of internal divisions over how to deal with the crisis with a number of senior officers said to be unhappy about continuing to back a man who had clearly lost the support of much of the population.


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The armed forces commander, General Wiranto, was installed in the most senior position in the Indonesian military in February.

Correspondents say he has been concerned to maintain the integrity of the armed forces as an institution.

In public at least he adopted a conciliatory line towards protesters, and apologised for the shooting of students.

In one of the defining moments of the crisis, he rejected as unconstitutional a call by the Speaker of Parliament for President Suharto to go.

But his loyalty to President Suharto at the start of the week may have damaged his popular support.

Lt-Gen Prabowo Subianto


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Suharto's son-in-law, General Prabowo Subianto has been seen as a potential challenger to General Wiranto for control of the military.

Mr Prabowo is regarded as young and ambitious, and has a record of ruthless loyalty to Mr Suharto. Some observers suggested Mr Prabowo's supporters instigated some of the recent violence as part of a power struggle with General Wiranto.

But he was replaced as commander of Indonesia's crack strategic army reserve in a lightning reshuffle of the military leadership by General Wiranto within 36 hours of Mr Suharto's departure from office.

Analysts say the military reshuffle has left the armed forces firmly in Mr Wiranto's hands.



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